September 14, 2020 The Journey to Excellence Never Ends

It is not uncommon for employees to hear that their organization wants to be excellent, is working on excellence or is seeking an excellence designation or recognition. Perhaps this is your organization as you travel on a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award journey. Perhaps you are seeking Magnet® designation or Pathway to Excellence®(PTE®) recognition. Regardless of whether you are seeking an official recognition, excellence is a desired goal for most healthcare organizations today.

At some point, someone in your organization may ask you, “How long will it take to create our culture of excellence?” or “When will we be done creating our culture of excellence?” Or perhaps after receiving Magnet® designation, someone asks the Magnet Program Director, “So what are you going to do now that we got Magnet?”

The truth is, in excellent organizations, the journey does not end; the bar keeps rising. Excellent organizations do not settle for the status quo. They are constantly asking themselves: What else? What’s next? How can we make this even better? How can we be innovative? How can we add to the intellectual discipline of nursing and healthcare? How do we raise the bar?

The literature identifies many common essentials found in cultures of excellence including autonomy, shared governance, transformational leadership, inter-professional collaboration, and outcome-driven improvement activities. Baldrige, Magnet, and  PTE, designated organization have indeed enculturated these key essentials, as well as  many others. You may have a practice in your organization that strengthens and supports your culture of excellence. I encourage you to look at what is working in your organization, celebrate it, share it, and then ask yourself: “Is there anything else we can do to strengthen this even more?” “Can we raise the bar on this?” It could be as simple as disseminating it to new areas that could benefit from your excellence practice.

While you are looking at what is working in your organization, do not overlook what is not working or keeps re-occurring. Re-occurring issues, often referred to as problem churning, frequently occur when there is a rush to solution without full analysis of the issue/problem. It also occurs when the proposed solution action plan is developed by those who will not be the individuals operationalizing the plan. Staff involvement in action plan development is critical to successful improvement, enculturation and is a hallmark in “excellent” organizations.. It is also the first step in creating staff ownership of the issue/problem. It would be wise to remember the Chinese proverb: An owner in the business will not fight against it.”

Admittedly, the journey to excellence is not easy, straight, nor should it be the same for every organization. There will be times of joy and celebration mixed with frustration, possible back slides and detours, and on some occasions, it may come to a complete halt. The challenge will be to keep your vision of a culture of excellence and continue working hard to achieve this vision.

Maintaining a culture of excellence is never ending and it is HARD. I remember my CNO, six months after receiving our initial Magnet® designation, saying to me and another director, “I never realized just how much work it would be once we reached our designation!” My colleague and I just looked at our CNO and then each other and said, “We know!”


What you get by reaching your destination
isn’t as important as what you


by reaching your destination.


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